Monday, September 17, 2018

Fulcrum as a Wake Up Call

When the City Council approved an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) with Fulcrum Development to purchase the open downtown lot and construct a senior memory care facility, it caught a lot of people off guard.  Before that was widely publicized and objected to, ultimately leading the developer to back out of the deal in June of this year, many folks around town had no idea that the Council wanted to sell the land that was home to all of the downtown festivals and events.

But this was nothing new - the Council has been trying to put in a senior care facility in that location for years.  And while members of the Council will demur when challenged, hiding behind some form of, 'there is a long process to go through before the Council can weigh in', or 'it was just a negotiation agreement'.  Here's an example from Councilmember Catalano at the June 5, 2018 Council meeting (page 6) talking about the Fulcrum ENA:
Here she is hiding behind the idea that the Council can't take action before the process is complete.  But this isn't true.  The Council already took action by agreeing to the Exclusive Negotiation Agreement.  The goal of the agreement was to sell the open lot, and put in a senior memory care facility.  By voting yes to that ENA, the Council took action voicing approval of that purpose.   If a developer wanted to put a garbage dump in our downtown, I hope our Council wouldn't agree to an ENA for that purpose.

Fulcrum wasn't first attempt by the Council to sell the open lot and put in a senior assisted living facility.  After purchasing the lot, the City entered into an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement with Pacific Union Land Investors in July 2016.  At the time, Councilmember Shuey recognized that this would jeopardize the downtown festivals and events.  He still voted in favor in July-2016, saying that this was merely an opportunity to explore the potential:
Here Councilmember Shuey is hiding behind the idea that this is merely an ENA.  But of course, the purpose of an ENA is to get to a final agreement, one which would ultimately see the open downtown lot replaced with a senior assisted living/memory care facility.  He knew it would mean sacrificing downtown community events, but voted in favor anyways.

The city has been trying to sell this open lot for years, the whole time wanting to put in a senior care facility.  That Fulcrum was turned away due to community disapproval was a great outcome in spite of the actions from the Council.  But the same people who wanted to sell our city to outside developers are still on the Council and one of them is a candidate for re-election.  Selling city owned property reduces the control the Council can exert over the utilization of that property.  Clayton should not be for sale to outside developers.  If it is, we may gain short term financial benefits, but we will pay with the character of our city.